“I’m Feeling it Bounce off My Face”

1975, #660. My favorite picture on any baseball card featuring the true homerun king of any generation.

This isn’t a perfect card with sharp corners, red and yellow contrasts beyond reproach, and a face without blemishes. Imperfection and moderate use is apparent. We would say, “collected and enjoyed” in the hobby, perhaps … as most cards were before collecting as an investment took hold. Opening wax packs after a busy school day, or fun Saturday morning, were toyful, joyful events full of exciting what-ifs. What if I finally got my favorite player in the pack? What if I had enough cards to slip over to a buddy’s house for a game of flip? Preserving corners and colors were as far off as considering IRA investing, career choices, and first-born child names.

If I needed to consider names for anything at the time, however – my high handlebar bike or favorite stuffed bear – Hank or Aaron would have been tops on the list. Topps #660, to be more precise.

Magical, Hammerin’-Hank. Twenty-three seasons in the major leagues with 755 homeruns … the stat. A four-base record surpassed in 2007 by Barry Bonds, but not forgotten as the player who broke Babe Ruth’s record of 714. On April 18th, 1974, he caressed his 715th at the Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta where over 53,000 folks sat … witnessing a small 5 ounce ball carry the delight of history over a fence into the Brave’s bullpen in left-center field.

This is where the story gets interesting to me, especially. Tom House, a relief pitcher, caught the ball on the fly and was immediately asked to turn over the ball by Bill Buckner, the Dodger’s left fielder. Interesting to me. Buckner scaled the fence – with cleats – to prevent the homerun … to watch, perhaps, the most important ball in history fall into his mitt instead of the history books. Not to be, of course. Tom wound his way through players, coaches, and our wonders to personally hand that ball to Hank at home plate. In his words, “So, the ball was worth (almost) twice what I was making at the time,” House said. “But I’ll guarantee, if you asked anyone on the field that day, if they would have caught the home run they would have done exactly what I did.” Class. pure class.

“I remember thinking to myself, I’m not hearing the noise,” House said. “I’m feeling it bounce off of my face.” when asked about the craziness on the field in those moments after the homerun.

Vin Scully is quoted as saying, “What a marvelous moment for baseball, what a marvelous moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia, what a marvelous moment for the country and the world,”.

Indeed it was. When asked about his record, he replied, “I’m not trying to make anyone forget the Babe; but only to remember Hank Aaron”.

I believe we will. On January 22nd, we lost this American icon. There are better historians and sports writers .. well, let me digress. I’m neither. Suffice to say there are other folks imminently more qualified to write of his legacy than I. This part-time key-tapper remembers Hammerin’ Hank as a cardboard warrior. A player I never saw in person, met at a sport’s show … or had occasion to call. He was always a 2-dimensional man in a boy’s life and, at present, appears on baseball cards I see from 1954 to 1976.

This 1954 Gem Mint 10 PSA rookie – priced at over $350,000 – shows the respect and value collectors place on Aaron’s life and career. Granted, finding any 66-year old card in this condition would be tough and highly sought after, but his rookie card ranks easily in the top tier of values.

I don’t own one even close to this condition. My collecting years were later. Porch pirates were my friends and I … pitching, trading, throwing, twisting … beating the colors and corners out of every card we had. Not so much my sister, though. Taking great care … by boxing up her cards in neat little piles, she attempted to ward off the perils of time and temptation. Few times … very few, did we cardboard together. I was tempestuously drawn to the destruction of cardboard images. She wasn’t inclined to allow me the privilege. Unfortunately for her, however, in an effort to mark the cards as hers back then, she ran a red marker across the top edges of almost all the neatly sorted cards in the box. This long red line, over time, bled down into really cool half-moons on the front faces of all the cards. We laughed about it later – as adults. Well, laughed may not be the proper term here …

Years later, when going through boxes, she asked about her favorite card(s). I did find her Clemente #309 from 1972. A favorite of mine as well. I’m torn between the 1975 and 1972 Topps sets as to which one is my favorite. This 1972 Topps #299 isn’t a crowd favorite in my memory, but the overall set is beautiful. His head shots from 1954 and 1975 allow for more imagination and intrigue than this standard batting stance pose.

I don’t know how many of my childhood flipper friends still collect as I do. Most of them are within reach, I suppose. We don’t connect anymore. Motivations are different and life is 45 years removed from youthful exuberance. The simple act of getting up from the floor could be challenging – let alone finding wax packs for a dime. These days, the hobby isn’t about the gum or clothes-pinning ballplayers faces in the spokes of our bikes. It’s big money to those few who actually buy packs, boxes, and cases of cards searching for that rare autograph or short-printed card they can possibly sell on-line. “Flip-it” in the newest sense of the phrase, not like we used to do.

Not like the pre-teen who heard of a guy breaking the homerun record of a legend. A myth 50 years removed from any normal life I knew at the time. Babe Ruth was more a candy bar name than a person of interest in my everyday life. Seven-hundred fourteen? Irrelevant until that April day in 1974.

I became aware of Hank Aaron’s death as I looked down upon the following text from my brother that day: “I bet your Hank Aaron cards are worth more now?” … I felt the sorrow bounce off my face.

Our lives were worth more having this man at the plate. All of us should catch his legacy, run as as fast as we can toward home, and hand over the ball saying, “Keep on swinging … in a world of what-if’s … we’ve got this.”

Rest in peace, our true Homerun King.

The Simple Act of Sitting

Rosa Parks. December 1st, 1955. James Blake. Browder vs. Gayle. Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. “Stay put, young man …”

It would take a pretty large, generational twist-tie to bind all those together. Together they are, however, in my mind as I sit here in my concession trailer one day after the inauguration of the century … arguably. A swearing in of not only a new President, but a new way of thinking about how things are in America, makes one stop, sit, and wonder where we were and where we’re headed.

A close decade before I was born, Rosa Parks was asked to move from her seat. She refused. As we know, this led to the Montgomery bus boycott, then on to a landmark ruling 11 months later. Bus segregation was ruled unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause and life changed for her after that. Her act of defiance became a symbol of the racial segregation movement and the likes of Martin Luther King and his contemporaries stood by her efforts. She worked tirelessly for the cause and, upon her death in 2005, she was the first woman to lie in honor at the Capitol.

In 2005, I started my business. One of many endeavors in my life. An experience that will never, ever, change the face of America like Rosa Park’s stand … while sitting. Here I sit, today, making a difference to some, I hope.

Growing up a white, middle income family male child, I didn’t get pushed around by racial inequality, poverty, or discrimination. Closest I can recall was a six-inch taller bully on the 6th grade playground – minutes later sitting across from me in the principal’s office. We shared a swift dose of discipline at the end of a wooden plank, by no fault of my own, explained away with the words, “I need to make sure I punish the right boy, so both of you are going to get spanked!”. For the record, I defended myself minutes earlier and make no excuses for the attempt. He was a bully and I rewarded him for his efforts.

At home? Different story. One can’t retaliate quite as easily and spanking at the behest of, “Stay put, young man!” had a different tone. Discipline was tough. I sat when told. As long as orders were obeyed … even if beyond my understanding … life seemed to be o.k. .

Seemed to be, anyway. I didn’t know what was going on with life in my dad’s adult world at the time. Only later – as I pathed my way through difficulty when mom died – did I even begin to understand. Yes, over three decades into adulthood, I started to “get it”. Too many push-throughs stack on one’s shoulders and when the stress of one more thing – like the disobedience of a child-imp tiptoeing up to the line – piles on, a dad can lose his cool. My intentions aside, he had his reasons for discipline. I couldn’t question them at the time. Now, I can … and the answers are easy to accept as long as there are deep mugs of warm chamomile tea available at my beckoning call.

That’s where I was, in a proverbial nutshell – without taking up too much of your time. Again, an uneventful beginning decade-point-five of life compared to Ms. Parks. My birth was 10 years removed from her beautiful 1955 sit, stay, and take a stand. Mom – and the universe – decided to pop me out the year after Martin Luther King’s “Dream” speech … in the year of a Beatles arrival at JFK airport, LBJ presidency, and … the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibiting unequal application of voter registration requirements, racial segregation in schools and public accommodations, and employment discrimination. A very large ink shadow of Rosa Park’s influence filled the pen of President Johnson on July 2nd when he signed it into law, I suspect. Months later, I was born.

Where we were back then, right? Where we are now, right? Where you are now compared to your early years? Where are we headed?

Certainly, if we compare ourselves to Rosa Parks, JFK, LBJ, or perhaps the Beatles, we’ll be disappointed. Can we change the world like they did? I doubt it. This isn’t to say we can’t try. Don’t give up on anything or anyone – especially yourself.

Yesterday, I noticed the picture of a young girl with the words, “There was a little girl in California who was bussed to school.”:

This is our Vice-President. You can argue about the process, but this is now. Kamala Harris is our black, female, 2nd in-charge behind the President of the United State of America. Tell me, 65 years later after Rosa Parks warmed that cold bus seat, this picture doesn’t send chills up your backbone. She stood on the steps of the Capitol and took the oath of office. I don’t agree with some of her policies – most assuredly don’t – but, I stand with the 200,000 flags firmly planted on the mall … supporting her and President Biden as an American.

She didn’t give up. Whatever the path was, she did it. Joe Biden, with faults galore, did it. They are really fault-filled humans, of course. They’re politicians to the core, admittedly. Oh, and Donald Trump was, too … I guess. He found a way to the presidency as well. Agree, disagree on policy – I understand.

We’ve a lot to do here in America. The Covid crisis isn’t going away. Economic recovery is months – if not a few years – away and the emotional strain on all of us has been draining. This is what has been on my mind as I sit here. Simply sitting here.

Rosa sat there. Her thoughts as a 40-year old woman being told to move? I want her resolve and determination to seep into all of our consciousnesses and help us to see this straightforward, uncomplicated act of sitting created a movement lasting well beyond her years. Change happened. She saw it coming through those glasses.

Activism is good and healthy .. in the right way. Storming the Capitol and/or burning down businesses isn’t the path forward and is why change happened January 20th, 2021. Election fraud, ballot discrepancy, 5 state voter mis-counting, … I don’t make any claims as to what was true or not because I don’t know what I don’t know. America was tired, worn out, and weary – tired of all the bickering and divisiveness over classless, leadership from both sides of the aisle. As usually happens from the swinging populous pendulum, we’re all-in Democratically led now. If it doesn’t work, in four years they’ll be voted out.

We have to trust ourselves. The system, well … continue to challenge it. But, do it responsibly. Park yourself on a bench and think things through before doing anything. Sometimes the simple act of sitting can change the world more than lighting a match under kindling soaked with fake tears.

Here I sit. Mildly uncomfortable. Inside this concession trailer is warm, however, compared to the 42-degree day outside. This metal chair under my posterior is getting aggravatingly annoying so I must conclude, hoping a customer saunters up to my window soon. One person trading money for my product and service at this point would make a difference.

I guess that’s the point of life. One person making a difference in the life of another. Just that some sit on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Inspired by Claudette Colvin who was arrested nine months prior for refusing to leave a bus under similar circumstances, Rosa Parks became one of many iconic images for change. Large, monumental change most of us will not facilitate by ourselves – one by one. We will make a difference in the lives of those we talk to about their kids, jobs, favorite sports teams, … and, of course, pets, food, & rainbows.

One at a time is wonderful. This is how we manage our way through the pile-ons. Like dad. Normal, day-at-a-time walkabouts we need to survive as Americans right now. We can do this. Rosa is right here with us, sitting by our side.

18 Letters

Today, January 18th is the day … in 2021. A Monday. A day set aside to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. M.L.K, for short. A man with 18 letters, side by side, forming his name. In his death, asking us to stand side by side in a dream against the backdrop of “withering injustice” and the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation 100 years prior. 18 letters on the 18th day. Wonderful.

“When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men – yes, black men as well as white men – would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”, Dr. King spoke on August 28, 1963 before an estimated 250,000 people at our nation’s capital.

Shameful as it is, I’ve never read his speech in its entirety. The soundbites provided by a well-rounded education and occasional nod throughout my adult life during the third Monday in January over the years have been my limited exposure. As I read his speech earlier today, there’s was phrase in the eighth paragraph that fully developed my attention: ” … remind America of the fierce urgency of now“. Maybe recent events – like January 6th on those very steps where Dr. King stood – have my antenna up higher. Possibly the struggles this past summer over George Floyd’s unfortunate death have my brain thinking differently? Whatever the cause, the effect was an increased urgency to read his words carefully and with purpose … especially that phrase.

It came after his statement above – the promise to all mankind … and the default of same. A default-default, in a sense, because he goes on to say the system wasn’t broken. Opportunity for freedom and the security of justice still remained. He saw a path toward justice for all people … ALL people … at his now. 1963. I was taken aback by this. In context, his words at this point are better understood, for me, than five soundbites for an eighth grade pop quiz before lunch period. Imagine being one of 250,000. Listening to “… Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time...” as you stood with your friends. So powerful, it must have been.

The next few paragraphs, although only 10 lines, express a heartfelt desire for peace in pursuit of reform. His respect for authority and the brotherhood of blacks and whites“as evidenced by their presence here today” – should be emphasized by all teachers wanting to provide their students a fair and accurate representation of Dr. King’s remarks. He wanted, in his words, “dignity and discipline” in pursuit of “their destiny (which is) is tied up with our destiny.”

Six injustices follow: Police brutality, inequity in travel/lodging, housing, “whites only” discrimination, voting, and justice reform. Summarizing, he vindicatingly remarks, “You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.”. Never up to this point in the speech did he urge the individuals to violently protest the injustices that were certainly tearing apart their lives and communities. His words, carefully crafted, soothed rough edges of concern and distress. Restless, weary kin had enough and were tired. They marched for change. In the midst of fatigue, they stood and listened. Eyes half open. Exhaustion pulled heavy on their souls. Then it happened.

Then … Dr. King entered into their slumber. He had a vision. The sun broke free, people on that day tilted their heads upward, generations to come read words in history books, and the third Monday in January celebrates an 18 letter name:

“So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, one day right down in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

Less than 5 years later, he was gone. On April 4th, 1968 he was shot on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. We know the story. A righteous man who never condoned violence died because of it. That isn’t an original observation, of course. I highly doubt that phrase wasn’t used days after the assassination. It’s just so appropriate, however. It rings true – as does this selection from his final remarks on that day in August of 1963:

“And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania. Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California. But not only that, let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

Allow me to finish with my own 18 letters: Today, read his speech.

… And, also give the final say, but never good-bye, to Dr. King himself: ” … And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty, we are free at last.”

Wonderful. Simply, Wonderful.

Axes and Ohs

Brian extended a very kind gesture toward me today. “Who’s Brian?”, you ask. He owns a local axe throwing house close by. I met him eight months ago during a casual hour of moderately sharp tool-tossing after a five-minute introductory session. Underhanded, over-toss, … certainly not sideways, and – for sure – the forbidden backward mistake throws were all covered by his trainers. In front of me stood the forbearing circles of unproven manhood I was to carefully consider without stepping beyond lines at my toe tips. The only caveat was allowing axes to be thrown by all before retrieving mine. As an aside here, I’ve had knives in my back, figuratively, but would know to wait … (darn insurance company regulations require the disclaimer, probably). Oh, and did I mention alcohol is allowed as well? Yes, BYOB in an axe-throwing building.

Alcohol and axes. Local Paul Bunyons and their Big Barcelo Rums chasing the blues away in a small city block building close to a set of railroad tracks near Altoona, PA. Brian runs his business quite well. It’s as professional as any I’ve seen – for this type. Granted, how many mildly-blunt forestry implement flinging establishments have I been in? One. His. Every precaution has been taken for the safety of his guests. There’s sign-in ahead with call-in appointments recommended and professional staffing from entrance to exit.

Two weeks prior to my visit, Brian stopped by my concession stand to introduce himself. Why not, right? At that time, I was only a few blocks away and surely scents dancing on air – from the finest sausage grease and hamburgers in town – caught his nose-tice. Simple marketing. Meet-and-greet as we used to say pre-internet. Being not overbearing or abrasive, he became an instant friend of mine. I didn’t pretend, or assume, we’d immediately start to attend family goldfish burials together or send holiday cards back and forth, however. It wasn’t a bromance in the brew pot … just a real nice guy.

As the weeks continued on from there, I would look out my concession window and see Brian order two hot dawgs once a week – no onions. “Hey, how’ve you been?” moments in passing … hoping each one of us respond with positive reports. We did, then moved on with our next six days or so.

Today I noticed his company vehicle pull up – which, of course, wasn’t unusual. I knew fresh hot dawgs were grilled up ready to go with his favorite chili-cheese steaming in the cooker. Before I had a chance to ask how things were, he set a hefty box on the cold serving counter just outside my window.

“Here, Doug. This package is for you!”, he gleamingly gave voice to his benevolent demeanor. Stunned, I noticed a rather plain box with the words: Exterior String Lights, 49 Feet.

He continued, “A buddy and I came by the other night and measured the exterior of your trailer. There are enough lights to go around here …”, he continued, pointing excitingly to the far left side, “…all the way across the front, around the end then behind. All the sides cars will see you in the dark. Those nights when you are open, hopefully these will help you get some increased business, right?”. I, in a breathless manner, replied, ” Uh, yeah …”

“I’m sorry, Brian. I’m at a loss for words. Thank you so much. Let me pay you for these”.

“Absolutely not. And we’ll let it go at that.”

“Ok. At least allow me to give you these two dawgs for free?”. He agreed.

I was taught to accept gifts with gratitude and compliments with grace. Both, when done with sincerity, are given from a kind and gentile place. Brian, in that moment, exemplified his kindness toward me. I accepted – with a little push-back, of course, because I’m Doug.

Two weeks ago, Brian came by – at night – and apparently made a mental note that my exterior trailer space is dark. Save a few small lantern lights setting on the very shelf he placed his wonderful gift today, the customer experience after sundown is less than ideal. I have certain priorities – exterior lighting hasn’t been one of them. My casual friendship to Brian was a priority to him during this past week and I am indebted to his goodwill. He lit up my emotional small 160 square feet footprint today.

In a few days, I’ll be able install these lights. For now, Axes and Ohs go out to you, Brian. You threw one and hit dead center today, my friend.

New Year’s Derby Hats

As a part-time writer – and one who doesn’t claim to remember all the grammar rules from, let’s say, a few years ago while sluffing back in a hard plastic school chair – I’m fascinated by what comes out of my fingers sometimes. Just me, though. You don’t need to be. Only because I never paid a gnat’s attention to the instructions given out by well-qualified teachers … that’s why. Chief among them, my dad. He was on staff at the high school where I attended, but I never had him for English or Literature class. I would have traded forty minutes, five days a week for the constant gerund, lie-lay, dangling modifier meerkat, eye-rolling moments he flinged at us around the dinner table. Moments I remember only because the rest of us at the table dug our utensils deeper into mom’s daily casserole every time dad dissected dinner dialect.

It wasn’t just over peas and carrots, or noodle dishes prepared ahead. Breakfast presented its own paternal parental problems, parenthetically writing, here. Dad had a schedule. Of course he did. Up out of bed at 5:50 a.m. … and so forth. Mom, deciding early on not to accept a teaching job within the same school district in order to raise three little angels, was expected to prepare oatmeal, a glass of O.J., coffee, and toast. Mixing it up once in a while with some Raisin Bran cereal, mom really didn’t mind. Routine. Both of them in that comfortable space where dad had expectations and mom, being her wonderful self, went along with the plan.

Pre-dawn problems made an appearance along side angelic Doug. I, the ever-so non-agreeable child of the three, couldn’t stand routine. Well, let’s play all the flash cards here. By the time middle school came into my life, dad decided work came first – not studies … not music … not girls … not fun, etc … I respected my dad and pushed forward with all his wishes. Anything to make a buck – in his eyes – I labored on. Tiring as it was, I dad-did. As any young boy-man would wish to do, I rebelled. Not in a nasty way, of course. To this day, that’s not my nature. I’m a pianist, musician, and as much as I have an aversion toward the phrase, “people person” … that duo best describes me – and it sooo fit my mom. We were two of the same.

Dawning on me, mornings had to change. I didn’t want to go to school anymore. The days and weeks were wearing me down with work. I had work-a-day syndrome before my eighteenth birthday. Life wasn’t fun anymore. Mom looked bored doing the same thing over … and over. That same brick building, only a ten minutes walk away, could just disappear in the fog it always had lingering over it when mom drove me there. Yes, I insisted she drive me even though I could walk. Tired. Just exhausted. And, looking back, she was to. Routine, for us, was exhausting. Work. Rules. Wearisome.

So, the derby hats had to come out. Were these her idea, or mine? Not sure, but I do know we did the routine prior to their appearance on dad’s morning stage. Laurel & Hardy. Mom & I. Ironic, this use of routine. We turned the situation around to our benefit. We had to.

Leading up to this dramatic moment, dad stayed focused on his breakfast fare. His routine needed to be steady, predictable … as was his life to that moment. Staying on schedule is what we love about him to this day, actually. Since March, he’s done remarkably well being tossed about in an ocean of unpredictability. Without mom since 2012, he’s been through another death of a wife, some health issues, and as an octogenarian, is experiencing the usual mental issues associated with that decade of life. All that aside, a cantankerous teenager and his brilliant, bored mom didn’t look ahead that much. What we saw was a overly-grammared, stressed, casserole-killing, breakfast-timetable teacher who needed some shaking up. We were the perfect cereal killers for the moment.

Upon our heads sat the derbys a bit askew. “I don’t, Stanley.” … “What do you think, Ollie?”, began our routine as we entered the off-color, late 70’s styled kitchen where dad sat at the head of a slightly oblong, wobbly table. Not lifting his head even one, we got multiple degrees worth of grammatical tongue lashings from a guy who – by my best guess here – wasn’t in any mood for such shenanigans. Oh, and I think all the subjects and verbs agreed, btw. I don’t know what was worse: his language, or not recognizing our fine derby hats. We knew the routine well – having rehearsed it during leisure times prior. Fine tuning with the hats was a mere inconvenience. Adding the breakfast show for dad’s expected pleasure was a bonus feature. Yep. All work, no play.

Mom drove me to school that day. The school barely peeked through the dense fog once again. Dad was already in his classroom. He walked every day from our house – down the narrow, paved path through a wooded area – making sure to be one of the first teachers in his classroom. On schedule. I, of course, ran late into the band room late with my trombone case in hand, unfinished homework under my arm, and most likely a bad attitude. Life as an overworked teenaged who wasn’t having any fun.

It’s the last day of 2020 and I bet this is another day in the life of US. We’re upset teenagers who just haven’t had any fun lately because of a 2020 parent. Every day I get up anymore, I expect to see that dad of my teenage years sitting at my breakfast table. What’s he going to make me do today that I don’t want to do? What schedule am I going to be glued to prohibiting me from having joy in my life? Why did the parent I loved so much and connected with have to die? Where is that happiness and derby hat routine?

I WANT IT ALL BACK AGAIN!!

Another year is coming to a close. 365 days of missing my mom. Those derby hat days – and moments with her – are gone. It was only 30 seconds during a mundane, routine morning when we tried to break up another boring day. We understood the importance of work and responsibility. We also knew how important it was to have fun. To relax. To play. To throw pie in the face of stress and realize present progressive tense isn’t a state of being – it’s just a grammar rule.

Dad stops by my concession trailer almost every day and sits off to the side. I ask him grammar questions as I … work. Can’t avoid work. Ironic, huh? Forty years later, … in a kitchen of my own choosing, dad is relaxed, I’m stressed trying to fill orders to stay on a schedule. Maybe the lessons my dad tried to teach me – outside the classroom I never sat in – made sense after all. Nonetheless, I avoid lie-lay and who-whom as much as possible and any discussions about dangling participles are off limits.

Just the other day, dad said, “It’s my choosing, not me choosing…” to a customer. Fortunately, this was a good friend of mine. Rules and routines keep dad going. I’m so fortunate these two words supported him this year. They’ll serve him well as the calendar flips over tonight into a new year. My new year will begin as this one ends – missing mom and our derby hats.

It’s not just those hats. It’s everything about her and a life overflowing with fun, joy, and happiness. I know this year’s been tough on all of us with the rules. Our routines turned out to be one big mess as we meandered through lockdowns and virtual unrealities. Some did well, some struggled. A really hard year.

To say a simple turn-over of a calendar will bring this all to an end would be a fool’s promise. We have some work to do before 2020 can be behind us. As optimistic as my mom was, even she would admit two simple derby hats and a 5-minutes routine wouldn’t tamp down the long-term tension built up to this point. What she would do, however, is give us each a hug – one by one – and say, “It’s going to be o.k.”, smile, and ask if we want a chocolate chip cookie baked fresh with Crisco … followed up with a game of Trivial Pursuit.

Then she’d invite all of us to a humbly decorated, streamer basement to welcome in the new year. A new 2021 she won’t be here to enjoy, once again. I’ll put on an invisible derby hat in her honor and say, “What do you think, Ollie?” then call dad to wish him a Happy New Year.

B.A.D. in Delectably Virtuous Way

OK. So, we’re stuck here. Here? Yeah. Freakin’ 2020 … behind masks – out of our favorite restaurants and away from loved ones for many blips on digital calendars. That time being about nine months to date since the droplets hit our shores. Wow. What a tidal wave of emotions and opinions those little molecules turned out to be. This month last year, none of us saw the tsunami coming across magnificent oceans. Seemingly, we were immune from these viral outbreaks happening elsewhere.

Not so fast. Near Seattle, Washington state, then eastward bound … ashore it was – as we were unsure of our future. New York, hit hard … state-wide lockdowns, worry, concern for the elderly and immuno-compromised. All of it so new.

Firmly planted now with so much more knowledge and vaccines to help us, we still remember those lost in the mess of mis-understanding. They have no Christmas or holiday to celebrate with us because stubbornness overtook logic and reason, politics became a barrier – not a bridge, and habitual day-to-day living was too difficult a lane for some from which to turn.

This virus is a nasty sort. It takes from and gives very little back. We are in complete control of those facts. I also know you are aware life has a positive side, too. As we end 2020 – a year of absolute, mindbending twists we never knew possible – this seven day stretch between the 25th and 31st is absolutely B.A.D. in a delectably virtuous way. Remindably so every time a plateful of sweetness slides onto your decorated holiday table already stacked with fudge, brownies, cookies, and cakes lovingly baked by neighbors and friends.

It’s a season of giving, not of taking – the outright opposite of the selfish viral objective. It took so much from us; however bleak, our neighbors, friends, and loved ones are taking this week to turn that bad into a new version of BAD. A most excellent version all of us need.

Lovingly Bought. Acquired ingredients with you in mind. Sugar, spice, and everything nice … oh, and chocolate for sure. If not raw materials for scratch work, maybe time invested buying carefully selected candies from your favorite confectionaire? Whatever the outlay of kindness on your behalf, it was for you …

Lovingly Accepted. You can’t help that full feeling in your belly. Not the over-stuffed, jammed turkey graveyard push-away from the table at Thanksgiving full, but the overwhelming joy – smelling the deep, dark chocolate sitting only inches away. That snickerdoodle, powder cookie, peanut-butter icing waft-wonderful scent waving at you is too irresistible for you to not value the time and energy invested. Waving back through the cellophane or tin seems not enough at the moment. A return call or text within a week or so is appropriate, but first you must …

Lovingly, in a kindly gentile way, Devour. Head first, anything chocolate head of the line, no holds barred, all plates emptied by 12:01 a.m. January 1st, 2021. You’ve done your very best playing by the rules since March 15th. All of us have, and will continue to do so on behalf of our neighbors and friends. This week, alone with your family and that table full of sweetly chunkiness, dive in! Let the crumbs and sugar pieces fly. Rumba later.

For now, enjoy what’s in front of you. If that’s two cookies at a time? So be it. Be B.A.D. for once in your lockdown life this week – Oreo’d in between thorough, stiff rules designed, yes, for our collective safety, but really hard to emotionally handle. I get it. I’m right there with you looking at a tin , now happily half-full of chocolate covered popcorn and pretzels graciously sitting on a table only two feet away (within a comfortable three feet range from shoulder to tips of my very sticky fingers) Ugh. Those little sweet treats are so freakin’ delicious! Absolutley NOT going to last until 2021.

Oh, but don’t worry. I have more around, as I’m sure you do. Bags, plates, and pans – because I have to guess concerning your sweet situation. You’re not supposed to be good right now. I expect you to be bad in a delectably virtuous way. Eat all of it. Lick the plates with passion, tap every nugget, and don’t let this week pass without enjoying every single crumb.

Someone out there is mixing up ingredients for you to appreciate the moments. We can’t see what they’re folding for our futures, but we know there must be something special we can count on being magically injected into the dough. Gobble up a lotta love the next time they knock on your door.

I will because I have awesome friends who know my lack of restraint when piles of cookies remain open in my path. Heartfelt heaps that not-so magically disappear between the 25th and 31st of December. A week when all of us probably bought sugar and spice to make treats for those we love and respect as well.

Today is about giving of ourselves to others. Not only today, but also this week … this month … and especially this year. We’ve given our time, effort, resources, and love to those who need it the most. For some, the virus has been extremely cruel … all take and no give. That’s what it does.

We aren’t that. Our ingredients, mixed in, are virtuous, respectable, and shared in such a good way – on a plate for everyone we admire, and even those we may not. To give of ourselves is the highest honor one can grant to another. A goodness not found in one droplet these days, but found in a tsunami of sweetness as every wave of kindness comes ashoredly on our hearts this season – and across our palates in the form of delectable, really BAD treats.

But, oh they’re so good. Chocolate chip cookies with nuts … just in case you’re stopping by.

The Whoreads? Chronicles

There’s a title you don’t want to read too fast, right? All judgement aside, I’m only interested in great reads with most alluring story lines. That’s all. Attraction in its most novel form … to be clear. Three then five letters in one, not five then three. Math I didn’t see until after typing in that most (un)fortunate one word in a three word title. However, I love words, so it stays.

I love words – so much so I barely read them in books. Scanning over fictional characters’ smoochy love hugs in a dime-store, crack-back beach book isn’t my sunny day pleasure by a long shot. Draping a smoking jacket over my lazy shoulders – while sitting beside a slobbering basset hound – reading Baskerville is less suited to me than another Doyle named Brunson calling my all-in Aces at a World Series of Poker event. See, reading as a pastime, hobby, or school assignment has never, ever been a great love of mine.

I know those who do – voraciously. They eat up books faster than I shove pizza slices in my 4-times a week gapper. Eating, words, and music are more my three-ring circus. These friends and relatives exchange books in little gift bags, store plastics, and porch boxes. Back and forth go biographies, romances, comedies, tragedies, flimsy flops, and hard histories. I see them quickly buzz by, freely bartered among them-that-thespianate over such strung pages of textual bliss. I’ve Tristan and Iseult-ed once in my life. That was enough. Honestly, I don’t know how I managed high school and college, but I did … somehow.

Words – in five minute drops – are perfectly fine for me. More than that, shut the door. Which makes the 90-minute view last night quite remarkable for me. Well, not really that stunning since I wasn’t really reading.

In between the warm covers of my evening, I caught a short documentary about folks who collect antique books. Book “people”. Living, breathing kin folk who spend their lives amassing valuable, old … books. The first fifteen minutes had me at a $130,000 Don Quixote.

Hosted by the New York Antiquarian Book Fair, the event featured in the documentary returned to the Park Avenue Armory in 2020.

Books, books, … more old, young, and enthusiastic heart-pumping humans talking authors and editions than I’ve ever seen. White gloves in abundance with cheeky monacles inspecting ink blots dried decades before Ben Franklin was a glimmer in his mother’s eye. Everywhere the camera scanned, bookcases full with volumes of knowledge none in attendance could possibly have enough time or money to absorb. It didn’t matter to those waiting in line to go in, or to most lined up in the lobby. Readers all. Collectors of words in their heads and hearts.

Not just there, but in homes as well. Gentlemen and ladies with warehouses stacked to the ceiling with pages of stories – not only just tales from the masters, mind you, but also heroic sagas of that one, possibly multiple year-long journeys of gotta-haves that engrossed their every novel fascinations. Oversized gots with fold-outs of fish and little, century-old diaries including real mammoth hair … yep, mammoth hair. We were pretty far away from Alcott’s little darlings at this point in the story, but I’m sure Dickens would’ve approved of the twist this evening’s turn took at that moment.

During the whole time, I didn’t see many words. Just dusty old covers and lots of fancy price tags adorned the screen. $100,000 for this, $74,900 for that … oh, but the pamphlets and info were probably free. Not sure how much it was to get into the show, however, because that information wasn’t given out and, of course, I wasn’t in attendance. Didn’t even know the damn show was going on last March. How would I have known, anyway?

See, I wouldn’t be on their mailing list – as a donor, reader, or exhibitor. I’m basically broke, don’t read, and, save a few 1970’s MAD magazines in the attic, I don’t have any old paper around of any value. The closest I can come to the Antiquarian club is saying I saw Shamu once at the Aquarium at Sea World. Those two words are close, right?

… kinda like the two words Shamu’d together in the title. Ok, I’ll say it. This post today is multiple whore-ads for words. Who-reads, anyway? I don’t, in effect, for effect. Don’t have time for it. Still not judging anyone here. You’re obviously a reader of high quality or you wouldn’t have lasted this long today, or longer, with me on DougHugs.

Dickens, Doyle, Alcott, and never the Twain shall meet … me, probably. I’m way beyond school, thankfully, and only read books with lots of pictures and/or blogs I can write – hopefully lasting less than five minutes.

If you need a book to read, I have friends. Just let me know.

Ghee What a Ghal!

Ghosts and ghouls are past us by about two months during which gharries possibly arrived carrying ghastful gharials.

Admittedly, I knew three words starting with “gh” used in the above paragraph. The other two? Yep. Google. By the third grade – or sooner, if the chalk dust and marvelous marker smell has cleared my mind – I also knew these are the consecutive 7th and 8th letters of our 26 developed from the Etruscan alphabet sometime before 600 BCE (also Google 😄). It takes a bit of brain power to engineer opening paragraphs around the letters G and H and I’m not sure this little engine in my skull is puffing up hill effectively. Most likely won’t know until I’m looking down over my connected paragraph cars to the conclusion caboose. If everything is intact and there’s been no derailment, the G&H Line has been a success!

All I’m sure of is those two letters meant something to me today – and that’s all that really counts. So, hop aboard and let me tell you about my nice conversation today.

There’s a station in life where we stand. These weirdly words slapped on us are defined by society and there’s not much that can be done about it. We’re either married, or not. A pastor, or not. Have 12 children, one, or none. Maybe you’re one who employees hundreds, an employee, or not an employee at all. Ok, so we can do something about them, right? Get married, employed, or pregnant if so desired … but all these do is change the station. You’re still assigned a station in life, regardless. The life train comes and goes – in and out of your station … day after blessed day. We have to find a way to enjoy that station upon which we stand. Somehow enjoy the freakin’ show we see as people walk up and down, across and between our paths every. Single. Day.

I had that experience today. The happy human I conversed with is enjoying her station in life. Circumstances being what they are, I’m sure she would hope for better days ahead. Being careful on details for obvious reasons, I will bind this together like a coal car and engine gracefully tying their couplers for a wonderful journey ahead.

We met for less than an hour this morning. She, a purveyor of a service I needed to tie up a loose end for a holiday present, and I talked over health, religion, family relations, politics, music, and oddly enough, a little witchcraft. There is a small, friendly, historical connection between us as our pasts intertwine ever so gently. I do believe our chit-chat session could have extended beyond the time we spent before I had to leave for other engagements. This was, simply, a nice conversation with a nice, sincere person. Someone who is face-to-face with some real things as she stands on, and in, her station.

I drove away thinking about that. Moments later wrapping some presents … thinking about … that. Boy, what a waste of time arguing with a “friend” on Facebook when that time could be better spent talking to someone about their life’s struggles in person. Laughing (six feet away) from a relative stranger who needs a good joke rather than sharing a goofy meme seems to be far greater. In-person vs. Out-impersonal?

I know it’s tough, probably. My business affords me the chance to interact daily with folks. Without it, especially during this pandemic when we’re forced into distancing and lock-down situations, I’d be lost. Today’s wonderful conversation may have been a one-off’er because of the holiday need. Regardless, she certainly stepped up and lifted my spirits this morning while giving me a little hope in the midst of this rather bleak 2020.

She’s definitely on the right track for what she believes in and who she trusts. Her station in life is on pretty solid ground from the little I know, anyway. She believes in herself and trusts in herself to make the best decisions for herself. I’d say that’s a pretty good place to be. From where I stood, “Ghee What A Ghal” is pretty darn accurate…

…and her initials – engineered to be identical to the company name emblazoned on the side of her engine that CAN – is all the information you’re going to get as you watch her get up that hill. The “G & H” Line proudly steaming ahead as an example to all of us of what humanity, grace, and honesty looks like in the midst of life not being particularly kind.

Yes, two letters and not much of a start to any words, really. Didn’t expect them to be. Then again, I didn’t expect to be talking about broomsticks and Wickens this morning, either.

Don’t be Ruth-less

See, here’s the thing. I’m not the luckiest guy in the world. Wherever that gold mine is – with riches untold – a scratched instant game card, or row of six numbers leading me to the state lottery office for a multi-million dollar check … I’m not there. One could argue “yet”, and be correct, but after years of haphazardly wishing my way toward that big red X on the map, I’m not holding out much hope. This is o.k. because millions of other treasure seekers are happily leading their destiny donkeys across the barren gambling desert with me. I’m certainly not alone.

“Shallow men believe in luck or in circumstance. Strong men believe in cause and effect.” – so penned the famous American essayist, Ralph Emerson, who lived a good hundred years before Martin Handford asked, “Where’s Waldo?”. This 20th century British illustrator, I’m quite confident, knew all along Waldo was the loosely held middle nomenclature of the aforementioned prolific philosopher. Knowing that, however, didn’t stop Mr. Handford from searching for Waldo, or depositing over $20 million bones to date into his bank account over the years from sales, licensing, and royalty contracts. More to the point, ” … rise early, work late, and strike oil.”, as J. Paul Getty once spewed from his mouth. Martin Handford certainly did that, right? The work he put into creating and developing the character, making the contacts necessary to publish his work, and the long hours – all to his credit. We can’t set aside many others who did – and continue to do – the same, if not more, and have little to no credit with no bones. Yes, the the backbone and drive to continue forward, but no cashola or contracts, licenses or royalties. Still searching for their Waldo.

Luck is such a weird concept. It appears randomly without cause and effect. Unpredictable which, I guess, is the very definition of it. “Success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions”, is the pedantic, boring definition when googled. I’ve danced with her countless times and have so many bruised toes as slot machines, instant, and mega-millions tickets slammed down upon my already tired, wanting to be incredible, feet. It’s not wanting to be instantaneously rich that hugs me as we sway, more the process of satisfying my inner need to calm the waters at that moment. This is, as well, the excitement that drives those of us who get up every day to cut a rug with a new sales day – a time where we don’t really know who, or what, will take our hand. Who or what will try to take the lead. The dance, for sure.

If luck be the lady, Mr. Sinatra, I’ll dance. Oh, and I’d sure like to meet the lady who was lucky enough to find this gem in an attic a few months ago:

I’m a sports card collector. An amateur, but I know a bit more than the average Joe Jackson out there. Travel only a few short miles from my house and you’ll end up at the hospital where the woman works as a front line worker. She deserves every bone deposited because of the work done the past nine months. That card above came from Johnstown – a city about 40 minutes’ drive south of here. Rarity drove the price up from a starting bid of $25,000 to almost $350,000 in 16 days. According to the article, she kept 80% and the auction house retained 20%. Two-Hundred eighty thousand dollars for a little piece of cardboard attic find? Not a bad piece of luck … and slice of history either because a picture of the “Babe” – the Sultan of Swat – in a pitching stance is rare – rare, indeed.

She was lucky. Lucky her great-grandfather didn’t toss away that card (or some others in the box) when he could. Lucky they were stored away in a cold, dry place. Lucky that house didn’t burn down or be sold. Lucky, if sold, that the box wasn’t lost in a move. Lucky there wasn’t a water leak in the roof. But, not lucky that rarity drives prices up … and up … and up in the collectibles market. Luck, in the supply/demand curve here, does not have a dance card. Even in the midst of a pandemic, a miserable 2020 during which folks are scratching their collective heads, those who want, … want, and are willing to bone up close to 350G’s for a slab of cardboard with a guy’s picture on it.

Remarkable, but not surprising.

I wasn’t aware of this until it appeared in the local papers. Surprising since I, myself, appear frequently in the local card shop to converse with the locals. We know the vibe about town. There’s always scuttlebutt about the who’s and what’s when it comes down to these cardboard men and ladies in the sports world. To have a really rare, gradable, Ruth card like this around the area … in a collection with other cards from the same set … and none of us know? Hmmm. Or, perhaps, some did know and kept it pleasantly quiet which, by the way, I would have done as well. I certainly would have … most assuredly … without hesitation … wall-flowered the whole process!

This lady, again, was lucky. All of us are genuinely happy for her. To not be shows an out-of-touch reality and a, err … Ruth-less personality. How could anyone not marvel at the odds of someone shuffling through an old box in an attic only to find, months later, $280,000 in their bank account?

Lou Gehrig, a later contemporary of Babe, spoke these words in his “Farewell to Baseball” address: “Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”. Quoted often, most omit the first word, “Yet”. The sentence before, he says, “Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break I got.” … Then continues, “Yet …”.

So often there is heartbreak before luck. Lou Gehrig was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. We know that, right? It is a disease that destroys the neurons that control voluntary muscles. Lou used “yet” as a conjunction between two worlds, saying, “I’ve been told I’m sick, yet life has been spectacular.” Bad luck, nah. No such thing. The “Iron Horse” died June 2nd, 1941, after 17 seasons with the New York Yankees.

Between 1925 and 1934, Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth were teammates with the Yankees and were next to each other in the batting order. I would think that’s the best luck in the world, but I’m a simple man. One who has been though his – and his grandfather’s grandfather’s – attics many, many times searching for something – anything – that would bring in skeleton’s bones fortune. Alas, it has not panned out. My grandfather was young when these cards were new, crisp, and white. Not this one in particular, but cards of the same class. Cards he often told me were so expensive, even by today’s prices, if he bought even one, there’d be hell to pay. Besides, most were sold as promotions with cigar, or cigarette packs, so they were off limits to him, anyway. I’d argue the point with him to no end. Oh, there actually was an end. He walked away. If you’re thinking of my dad’s cards from the 50’s – like the ’51 Bowman or ’52 Topps Mantles? Uhm, grandma threw them out. Yeah. Luck be a lady there, too.

So, I didn’t write a best seller or find any real valuable cards around. Most of us won’t. See, here’s the thing. I’m not the luckiest guy in the world and my name isn’t George. Oh, and I have a brother, but his name isn’t Harry, so he can’t claim the quote, “A toast to … The richest man in town.” … Yet.

One day, he may be able to make that toast, however, I’m not changing my name. It is a “Wonderful Life” and our lives are a process whether we have a Clarence, a Ruth, or a Gehrig to remind us of such a fact. It’s not whether we have a remarkable find in our attic. It’s all the little bells that give the angels their wings, I suppose.

I wrote “I’m not holding out much hope” earlier, and that’s true. Nonetheless, I have to be truthful, real, and in that tiny space where our tires are on the road. Luck is rare in the sense that it appears as instant wealth, three cherries, or six numbers and a mega-ball. Luck isn’t so bad in good friends, health, a really cool job, food, family, and a little hope going forward. All of this is unpredictable. Even the friends, health, and jobs as 2020 so frighteningly brought to the plate. We struck out so much this year. With the final innings … yet … to go, we must hope for a grand slam here. Let’s stay in the game, at least, and give our teammates a chance:

Up to the plate steps the Babe, with a bat in hand. Points to the outfield. Here’s the pitch – from Charlie Root, the Cubs pitcher who would give up a three-run homer to Babe Ruth in the first inning and a solo shot to Lou Gehrig in the third. The famous “Called Shot”. October 1, 1932.

The Yankees won the World Series 4-0 over the Cubs that year.

If it happened then, it can happen now. Even in empty stadiums, I can hear the cheers of many over the doubts of the few. No bones about it.

Thankful Evolutions

Back in March of 2005, I started. Just what at the time? Not real sure. It was the beginning of 10,000 baby steps that continues to this day. Over fifteen years later, I haven’t yet matured into adult strides, i.e. grown-up thinking about my business. My attitude is still childish, – like opening up a Christmas present every time I unlock the door to my concession trailer or slide the window wide open to greet a customer. Every day is new. Fresh. Exciting. Record sales or rainy, blah days, I’m ok. Five-thousand, five-hundred days flipped over on the calendar since diving in this unknown pool of figuring out how to stay financially afloat, I’m ok.

In this type of business – as in all I suspect – a re-investment of capital is necessary to grow. What’s left over after the bills are paid (not including our own paychecks early on) goes right back in for development, research, new(er) equipment, advertising, employee benefits/incentives, etc … all the stuff to help urge our businesses along. As owners, we have to stay positive. We must never lose our energy, drive, or focus. These are the intrinsic qualities fueling the engine. Cliche? Absolutely! True? Most assuredly.

Since that day in 2005, I lost a lot of money. Two failed restaurants within two years, a depleted savings, and lessons I didn’t want to learn but needed to. Everything was right at the start, however, I sucked at picking locations. Sucked. “If You Renovate It, They Will Come”, right? Shoeless Joe … you there? Purchased equipment sat lonely with me as cars swooned by at the second location, and people hastily walked by at the first. My recipes were (and continue to be) tasty, customer service is “me”, and cleanliness exemplary. I knew what I sucked at and had to admit it: location.

Everything else being fine, why not go mobile? Go to the customer. Problem fixed. Enter small cart #1. Then cart #2 shown above. Then the trailer seen far right … fifteen years later. A van, one commercial kitchen, two carts, one trailer … and one guy who is still pretty excited about his business.

Why these words a day before Thanksgiving, 2020, from a simple hotdawg selling, piano-playing, blog-writing, strangely strange fellow? Because, I’ve learned being thankful is a process, an evolutionary operation, with baby steps under foot. In the business of simply being you, be thankful for all the little things along the way contributing to your magnificent self.

I could list all the crappy stuff – even today – that isn’t right in my business. But, that’s today and all of it will right itself sometime soon. None of it has to do much with the pandemic shut-downs or customers not willing to be out. Heck, I live in an area where a larger than normal number of people don’t mask or social distance anyway. Our numbers are going up. Period. Whether you’re a believer in the science or not, the local hospital is experiencing an increase in cases and inpatient admittances. Too many haven’t been willing to take the necessary baby steps since March. But, I digress.

-My thankfulness comes in the form of each 4316-9. That is the current number on my sales book today. Every customer is a baby step. Without them, I don’t survive as a business.

-My thankfulness is for each supplier of the goods I provide. I can’t process hotdawgs, sausage, steaks, or chicken. The rolls nestled around these juicy delicacies don’t just appear in my hands, either.

-My thankfulness is extended toward all the landlords who rent spaces to me so I can be open. They are my lifeblood. Customers and suppliers are not relevant if I can’t set up anywhere.

-My thankfulness wraps around money provided to me in the form of credit and financial services offered through the local banks. Personal service and help when needed has been so valuable.

-My thankfulness to all the local businesses who have allowed me to set up and serve lunch to their employees on site. Word of mouth through these lunches has been a tremendous asset.

-And, finally, thanks to all my family and friends who’ve stepped in to help over the years in many different ways. You know where I am. You know how things are. You’ve been there for every baby step.

Everyone above is so important. Investing in them is as important as placing one dollar in a new refrigerator, ad campaign, or employee’s IRA. They are the process of my being thankful. I’ve evolved – in no small part – with the help of their support and encouragement in spite of my stubborn nature and crazy ideas.

Find those people in your life that have been part of your thankful process. You’re magnificent today because they were there for you – maybe when you didn’t even know. In those silent moments you felt encouraged, they sat away thinking of you. That amazing business phone call you didn’t expect? That was their referral. A customer stopped by because they heard … through the proverbial grapevine ….? Find them. Thank them. All.

Some friends, as they look over silly FB memes of mine … listen to goofy jokes, or my pontificating about political punditry so ever-present in our world today, assume I haven’t matured at all. I proudly wear this jacket emblazoned with young, fancifully unsophisticated lettering embroidered on my soul. It is because of who I am, I can appreciate where I’ve been and what the future looks like as it evolves.

So, tomorrow is a weird 2020 Thanksgiving holiday, but it doesn’t have to be. Stay socially distanced and masked if that’s what you feel is necessary. I am. That’s me.

The day isn’t weird at all if you take a minute, or a baby-second’s time, to ask yourself a simple question: “Who, in this process I call my life, has been there for me?”.

The answer(s) may not be sitting across from you – especially this year – but I guarantee they are thinking about you. They always are because of who they’ve evolved to be: folks who want you to be the very best you can be – even if you’re not real sure what that is when you open a business and have no idea what lies ahead. It may be 10,000 baby steps or more, so be open to anything.